Charity trustees & CEOs need to get to grips with digital

My recent piece for Third Force News looks at my work with Scottish charity chief executives and senior staff on the OneDigital action learning programme. It’s been a privilege to be involved with charity leaders who are really challenging their organisation and future proofing the work they do.

Many of the non-profits participating are taking a fresh look at the fundamentals of how they work. Their starting point is service users and supporters, not digital tools. They’re making simple changes to transform the way their staff and volunteers work, and allowing them to get excited and empowered about the vital work they deliver.

All of this work is propelled forward by the broader OneDigital programme and the Scottish Government’s digital strategy. However, having worked with these charity leaders over the last few months it’s clear that we need radical change if the sector is ever going to truly embrace digital.

Effective leadership needs to be the starting point. The charities taking part in our action learning sets have embraced change because they’ve got passionate, effective leaders. Senior leaders and trustees can no longer rely on junior staff to make key strategic decisions about digital. It’s not just about social media, it’s not just about the server that sits in your cupboard and it’s not just about your fundraising database. This is about looking at what you do with a fresh pair of eyes, experimenting and empowering staff and service users – it needs to be about real culture change. It’s about seeing the transformational potential of digital service delivery.

For many organisations all of this leads to one fundamental question: is your chief executive or chairperson ready to fundamentally reassess how you do things in light of the potential offered by digital?

Charities need a new relationship with technology. Let’s end the age of the giant IT infrastructure system and aim to get to the point where IT becomes invisible. Beyond that, we need to ensure all decisions we make are based upon effective use of data. We need to be geared up to spot societal trends. It’s vital that we respond quickly to the needs of our communities and we need to be able to truly measure the impact we have.

We need to move away from seeing data as a tool to win and report on funding, it’s about delivering the best services we can, when and where people need them.

Funding is going to be key to all of this. That doesn’t necessarily mean more tech-focused niche funding streams. In fact it would be much more productive if funders simply encouraged more people to make digital-first grant applications to mainstream funding streams. That’s probably going to mean training grants officers to assess projects where digital is key, and we need more funders challenging charities to think about where digital can improve outcomes.

Alongside the OneDigital team, I’m currently working on a charity senior leaders’ digital call to action. This will be a blueprint for change, shaped by those taking part in the action learning programme. Hopefully this will kick-start a wider conversation about the need for effective leadership, culture change, flexible technology, smarter funding, and collaborative data. Less strategy, more doing.

The Call to Action will be launched on 2 November at the Senior Leaders Digital Unconference – 3rdsectordigicamp. This event is open to senior leaders and key stakeholders from across the third sector.

Could hyperlocal social networks transform how your charity reaches people?

If you’ve been to one of my social media workshops you’ll hear me banging on about the need to go to where your audiences are. I really cannot emphasise this enough. It’s great that you have a 500 Likes on your Facebook Page or 3000 Twitter Followers but if your key audience is single parents living in Inverness where are they congregating online right now?

With that in mind I asked Joe Cockerline at Streetlife to guest blog his thoughts on how charities can use his site to connect to local people. This isn’t a paid-for post, while Joe is talking specifically about Streetlife the lessons apply equally to local forums, Facebook Groups, etc.

These days, a social media presence is a given for any charity. Facebook and Twitter are the obvious candidates for reaching people en masse, but the trouble is the majority of people who see your updates already know about your charity.

For charities operating on a local scale, it can be more valuable to connect with those in the local community who don’t already follow your social media channels. Every one of these people is a potential supporter and, with the cost of printed publicity materials so high, it’s becoming harder than ever to reach them.

 

Is there another way?

 

Streetlife is a British social network for local communities. Used by more than 800,000 people and 2,800 charities across Britain, Streetlife works by connecting people within their neighbourhoods – there are no friends lists or followers, just open conversation at a community level. Below are five of the key ways that charities are using Streetlife to connect with their local communities:

 

1. Finding new volunteers

Recruiting volunteers is always going to be a challenge for any charity. 74% of Streetlife users are aged 40+, representing a settled, community-minded group, who have free time and are prepared to give back to a local cause.

 

2. Sharing news and updates

Charities are using Streetlife to share news updates beyond their established followership on other social networks. This means local people are kept informed and raises your charity’s profile within the community.

 

3. Publicising events

From bake sales to raffles, small-scale events are the cornerstone of fundraising for many local charities. Local residents are the people who attend these events, and sharing upcoming events on Streetlife helps raise awareness within the community and boosts attendance.

 

4. Attracting support for campaigns

The kindness of strangers never ceases to surprise, and you’d be surprised what members of the local community are prepared to help out with. Streetlife users have donated furniture, offered to fundraise and helped to spread the word about charity campaigns in the past.

 

5. Establishing a presence in the local community

Any charity is much more likely to gain traction and support in the local community if it’s viewed as a real part of that community, rather than just a shop front on the high street or a logo on a leaflet. Streetlife allows charities to have a voice in the community and gives them the chance to offer help and advice to fellow residents.

For a charity, of any size and scope, forming meaningful connections with the local community is always going to be a challenge. Streetlife represents another tool in a local charities’ arsenal, a way to attract support among an important, and too often overlooked group. Namely, your neighbours.

Five simple ways to get everyone in your organisation passionate about social media

I cannot believe I’m writing a piece on getting everyone in an organisation involved with social media in 2014, but the reality is most charities and public sector organisations are a long way off truly embracing the medium. Technology isn’t really the issue – it all boils down to trust. That isn’t to say that managers feel their staff will spend all day tweeting photos of their cat, but most don’t feel confident managing a strategic approach to using social channels.

While it’s easy to brush off social media as the responsibility of your marketing or communications person (if you’re lucky enough to have one), if you do, you’re missing a trick. Data shows that employees have greater reach, more influence and generate more revenue than official, branded organisation accounts. The organisation that taps into the reach and influence of its employees is much more likely to succeed in the social age.

So, if you’re tasked with making social media work within your organisation, how do you ensure everyone is on board? Here’s my five top tips which originally appeared in my article for the summer edition of Children in Scotland Magazine:

1. Show people that social media can help them get their job done
Staff don’t have an extra four hours in the week to ‘do’ social media. You need to show them how social media can help get their job done, how you can achieve your team’s goals and how you can reach your key audiences. You need a strategy. It’s a scary word, but, with a framework, you can create something meaningful and succinct.

2. Ensure people feel protected and empowered
If your social media policy was written by your IT-support person, it’s probably 15 pages long and terrifying as hell. He/she may be great at keeping your server ticking over, but they shouldn’t be single-handedly responsible for defining how your organisation communicates with the outside world. You need a policy that protects staff and your organisation, while making staff feel empowered and trusted, allowing them to experiment and drive your online communications. And it needn’t be more than one side of A4.

3. Create social media champions within each team
A strategy is great but without people driving it forward you’ll get nowhere. Start small and recruit social media champions who can get their team enthused – this also gives you a better opportunity to demonstrate impact to executive level staff. Give champions ownership of the channels they’re most experienced with and passionate about. Don’t make your video content champion the person who has never held a camera before.

4. Give volunteers and service users a meaningful role
At Third Sector Lab we spend a lot of our time training volunteers and service users to become social reporters for third sector conferences and events. The rich audio and video content these reporters create really tells the story of a conference in the way a written report cannot. How can you involve volunteers and service users in your online communications in a way that empowers them and tells their story?

5. Make sure the Chief Executive believes
The organisations that thrive in the social space are usually the ones who have a Chief Executive that values staff involvement. Just look at Young Scot – their online presence is driven by Louise MacDonald’s belief that social media can help bring about social good. More importantly she trusts her staff to get the job done using whatever tools necessary. While it can feel an uphill struggle at times, getting people from across the organisation involved in social media is worth the pain. People connect with people – they don’t connect with faceless, branded corporate accounts. If you want to use social media as a campaigning, fundraising and potentially service delivery channel you need to remember that.

Do you have any top tips for getting staff involved in your social media presence?

Five reasons why charities are doing so well in social media

1. Charities bring people together around a common cause

Social media, in its most basic form, is a way of connecting people through a particular technology or platform around a common interest. This corresponds very closely to the aims of many charities – raising awareness & advocacy, bringing people together, and forming a community around a cause.

When you “Like” a charity on Facebook, this news appears on your profile and in your friends’ news feeds. The things we “Like” on social networks make a statement about who we are and what we believe in. Deciding whether to “Like” a corporation on social media sites might conflict with how we want people to perceive us (even if we use their products), but it is hard to criticise someone for showing support for the work that charities do.

Perhaps this is why human rights and animal protection charities (RSPCA, Dogs Trust, Amnesty International) are doing so well, and we will continue to see initiatives like #Twestival bringing together social media users and charities in real life.

2. Charities can measure the ROI of social media and donations are just a click away

For most organisations, social media represents a cost which can be difficult to justify if they don’t have the processes in place to measure the return on investment – especially if the organisation has no other e-commerce channels. Charities can directly solicit donations, and sites such as JustGiving.com and campaign-based initiatives like Movember are making it simple and fun for individuals to encourage their friends to get involved, collecting sponsorships or donating. This makes it easier for charities to convert intention into action and making it possible to link social media activity with donations. Other charities are taking their storefronts online by setting up shop on eBay. Barnardos has really embraced this concept. There are many benefits to this approach: the auction format means that donated goods achieve their maximum price, and the overhead is low. Volunteers can also be geographically dispersed, and can work flexible hours.

3. Celebrities love lending their clout (or should that be Klout?) to a good cause

While not all celebrity / charity tie-ups have been successful (remember the celebrity Twitter death in support of World AIDS day?), some charities have had major wins from working with celebrities and social media to get their message out there and boost donations. When Justin Bieber donated his birthday to Charity:Water, traffic to the site increased by 300 per cent, raising nearly $50,000 as a result. Although some may mock celebrity / charity tie-ups, their ability to create discussion and awareness about a charity is undeniable.

4. Kindness is cool and charities can tie up with well-known brands to make a difference

There are two schools of thought when it comes to CSR. The cynics see it as brands simply using charities to improve consumer perceptions, while others see it as a more symbiotic relationship where both parties stand to gain. Pepsi Refresh is perhaps the most well-known current initiative, whereby users can nominate a local project to be funded by the Pepsi Refresh fund.

The concept of “buy one, give one” where for every product bought by a consumer, another is given to people in need (pioneered by companies such as TOMs shoes) is also gaining popularity this year with sites like B1G1.com springing up to encourage businesses to get involved in charitable in-kind giving.

5. Social media is multimedia – charities can tell their story convincingly

Lastly, it would be impossible to explore the reasons why charities are doing so well in social media without talking about the possibilities that social media technology creates. From Facebook and YouTube to SlideShare, from Last.fm to Flickr – as well as more specialised sites like Justgiving.com and Facebook Causes – social media provides a multimedia, interactive way for charities to provide compelling stories, show the work that they do, and encourage supporters to promote causes on their behalf. This has an impact that isn’t afforded by a TV advertisement or a leaflet posted through your door. It lets people get really involved with just a few clicks.

Charity:Water has really understood how to engage people around its cause. It uses all of these methods, along with well-curated multimedia content, to create a compelling story, highlighting how much money is raised and being open about how it is spent, and creating opportunities for people to get involved, whether by becoming a volunteer or corporate sponsor, or by buying merchandise or donating.

The lesson for brands in this? People want a reason to get involved, beyond just looking at photos, or being directed to a corporate website. They want to feel good about themselves, and to have the chance to do something tangible. Vanity projects aren’t enough. I’d love to know what you think about the work that charities are doing to harness social media, and how you think brands can learn from it.

Hat-tip to @john_fellows for sharing this post from http://wallblog.co.uk/

A blog post about Jumo you HAVE to read

Jumo is a new and much heralded social networking site for stimulating, coordinating, and occasionally funding social change.  It was created by someone with a sterling track record in social media innovation.  Chris Hughes was a co-founder of Facebook, departing the booming company to join the Obama campaign as official social networking impresario.  When Jumo was announced earlier in 2010, many cheered the entry of the Facebook and social media veteran, hoping it would improve upon Facebook’s Causes as a means of using social media for the public good.

Jumo’s beta site went live yesterday, accompanied by puff pieces in the New York Times, Huffington Post, and Mashable.  Sample line: “If everything goes according to Chris Hughes’ plan, Nov. 30, 2010 will be remembered as a critical and celebrated moment for the multi-billion dollar nonprofit and charitable industry.”  Typical techno-boosterism.

It was a rough opening day.  The site was evidently inundated with eager early adopters, frozen by web traffic and consequently unusable for the majority of the day.  Jumo took the site down entirely today to work on performance.  That’s a good sign, of course.  Tons of user interest.

I was able to play around with Jumo in its earliest hours of availability, registering and creating a few projects that other users could then follow.  Here are some early impressions.

The Nuts and Bolts

Users can connect to or follow three different categories of things: people, projects, and issues.  So if I follow a person, say Chris Hughes, I’ll learn about the things he cares about.  (He’s big on Partners in Health; I am too.).  I can also follow projects, which are particular organizations.  Jumo has pre-populated the site with several thousand organizations, each of which has its own page listing followers and pulling in information about the organization from the web, especially from Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube.  It’s also possible to follow an “issue”, which is a general policy area under which all projects are classified.

When registering for the site, users are asked to follow at least one issue, such as education or poverty or health. Users can create new projects – adding new organizations to Jumo – but they cannot, as yet, create or define new issues.  Jumo is a completely open platform, meaning that site will allow anyone to create a project, no matter who the person is, no matter how small or how large the project, no matter whether the organization is for profit or nonprofit.  Jumo claims that each project should have a social mission, but social mission is defined by the user.  Public charities are not the only groups with social missions. For profits have social missions, too.  And of course state agencies and institutions have social missions. So Jumo will permit a local bowling league or the Red Nose Institute to exist alongside the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation alongside WalMart alongside the United States of America.  All are individual projects in Jumo’s lexicon.

There are two important limits to this “accept all projects” approach.  First, because Jumo is itself a registered 501(c)(3) public charity, it cannot list organizations that engage in electioneering or direct political campaigning.  That would violate tax rules that govern nonprofits.

Second, Jumo will permit users to make charitable donations only to formally registered 501(c)(3) organizations.  This is monitored by inputting the official IRS employer identification number, or EIN, of the nonprofit.  I would guess that Jumo interacts with Guidestar to verify the existence and identity of each nonprofit.  Without the EIN, no donation functionality.  More about Jumo’s donation button later.

Registering for Jumo works through Facebook Connect.  So you need a Facebook account to use the full functionality of Jumo.

The Good

Overall, Jumo’s site is well designed.  As expected, the site’s user interface borrows liberally from Facebook and is easy on the eyes and simple to navigate.  It’s easy to call up people, project, and issue pages.  Newly created projects have content imported through Facebook and other backend web searches.  The search bar anticipates what you’re looking for and offers an instantaneous list of organizations that match your entry.  The site is very easy to use.

The Bad

While the site has a terrific user interface and visually appealing design, I worry about some of the decisions the Jumo team made about how Jumo would function.

Start with the decision to use Facebook Connect as the only gateway to full Jumo functionality.  This is a two-edged sword, for while it facilitates all kinds of content and allows Jumo users to build upon their Facebook friends it also delivers all kinds of further information to Facebook, consolidating its control of social networking.  More worrisome, it means that people without Facebook accounts – think grandparents who actually do make lots of donations and are among the most civically engaged of all people – will not be able to use Jumo.

But the Facebook Connect concern is trivial.  Two other Jumo decisions caught my attention, and just as Jumo invites users to “flag a project for review”, I hereby flag these issues for Jumo’s review.

1.  Fees on Donations.  Jumo follows the DonorsChoose and GlobalGiving model: a fee is attached by default to all donations made through site to other projects.  Jumo levies two fees, one mandatory and the other optional.  The mandatory fee is 4.75% of the total donation, which Network for Good captures for its backend credit card processing of the donation.  Jumo (like DonorsChoose) then adds a whopping 15% fee on top of this, making the total cut in fees nearly 20%.  Users can opt-out of the Jumo 15% fee, and select a 25% fee or no fee at all, but to do so is cumbersome and non-obvious.  This is a classic nudge at work.

Worse, Jumo’s site misleadingly describes the transaction fees as an “optional tip”. This is Orwellian.  The language of a tip gives users the impression that they would be adding 15% to the amount they have decided to donate to a nonprofit.  That’s not what is happening on the site; the 15% Jumo fee comes off the total donation.

Expecting Jumo users to fork over 20% of donations doesn’t seem to me a good decision.  Not to be transparent about it – calling it a tip – is simply wrong.  (DonorsChoose, by contrast, calls their fee an “optional donation” and makes transparent that the fee is included in the amount of the donation, not something added on top of it.)

Suggestion to Jumo: provide an obvious option on each project page to call up the mailing address of each nonprofit organization where users can send a donation through the mail, avoiding the 20% fee and directing the full amount of the donation to the nonprofit they mean to support in the first place.

2.  At present, the categorization scheme for identifying projects is threadbare and inflexible.  It’s the only part of the site that is not an open platform.  Users are stuck with the few categories offered up by Jumo.  This is something the Jumo team will work on, I’m sure, but the problem is big.  Let’s say I want to create a page for a nonprofit I’m connected to, Stanford University.  I can easily do that by “adding a project” on Jumo, but then the site asks me to identify what kinds of issues Stanford is working on.  There’s no button for “everything”.  I thought that perhaps “education” was the appropriate issue to select, but that choice called up a series of other narrower options such as “teaching training” or “education reform”, none of which included “higher education”.  No option at the launch to have a project on higher education?

Equally strange is the decision not to include an issue called “religion” or “spirituality”.  Nearly half of all money donated in the United States is given to religious groups.  Religious groups – congregations, synagogues, mosques as well as faith-based social service agencies like the Salvation Army – will surely want to set up project pages to connect their donors and members.

Jumo needs to let users define issue areas as well as projects.  They might take a few cues from the National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities, an imperfect categorization scheme, to be sure, but a massive improvement upon Jumo’s current offering.

One other question: if Jumo is a nonprofit, why is the site a dot.com and not a dot.org?

The Ugly

The open platform is the large bet placed by Jumo. The best aspect of the site is its wide-ranging flexibility: anyone can join and connect with organizations and issues they care about.  The worst aspect of the site is its wide ranging flexibility: anyone can join and create projects for any organization.  It appears that each project can have only one administrator, where the administrator functionality is to be rolled out over the next few months.

The upshot is that Jumo should get ready for a landgrab.  It is built into the open platform functionality, for anyone can set up a project page for any organization and become the sole administrator.  Jumo does no vetting save a check on the EIN for 501(c)(3) public charities.

Jumo vets neither organizations nor administrators.  So literally within days the site will be populated with far more organizations than the several thousand that Jumo staffers created before the launch.  (If I had to guess, this is exactly what happened on launch day that caused the site to crash.)  With more than one million nonprofits, does Jumo appears committed to housing them all, treating them all equally as projects.

But consider a few problems with this open platform approach.  First, my own employer, Stanford University, has so many centers and programs and departments and schools and initiatives within it that I would not be surprised to find several hundred projects under the Stanford University umbrella.  All of these will have the same EIN, but they will work on different issues, in different areas, and have different members and followers.

And remember, Jumo allows users to create project pages for garden variety associations (say, a dorm at Stanford, a book club in Peoria, a park in Montana), for for-profit companies, international organizations, and even for countries and state agencies.  Jumo will happily host nearly everyone and everything that can lay claim to a social mission.

But the value proposition of Jumo is that it will help people learn about, connect to, and evaluate organizations and issues they care about.  The threat of an open platform is that users will find no way to separate serious from ephemeral organizations, well-functioning from ill-functioning organizations.

Moreover, since anyone can create a project, the threat of cybersquatting and misrepresentation looms large.   To test out the site, I set up a page for Stanford University.  Took 10 minutes.  I also set up a page for Harvard University.  I was named administrator for the Harvard project page 5 minutes after setting it up.  Bizarre.  I set up a project called “The United States of America” (vision: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; mission: government of the people, by the people, and for the people).  I am currently the admin there too.  Chris Hughes can’t be happy about that.

How will users be able to trust the information Jumo delivers to them about the projects they connect to?  This is a problem with any open platform, to be sure.  Facebook and Twitter face it as well.  (Twitter handles it with a visual tag for so-called “verified” accounts.)  Jumo will need to go down this path.

At the moment, the landgrab concern seems most pressing.  Get yourself over to the site and claim a page for your favorite, or least favorite, nonprofit organization, for-profit company, or country.  Cybersquatting has a long history.

Presumably Jumo will deal with this issue by banning cybersquatters and deleting their accounts.  But with fewer than ten employees currently, and potentially millions of users and millions of projects to assess, is Jumo prepared to evaluate who is squatting and who isn’t?

In short, if Jumo wants to help people find and evaluate charities, it has to make that navigation easy and it has to provide reliable information about the projects that populate its site.  With tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of organizations about to be created on the site, run by administrators who are unvetted, Jumo may contribute to the problem of evaluating charities rather than fixing it.

So the real worry is that the value proposition of Jumo will be negative.  The site threatens not to help users connect but to present users with a bewildering array of flotsam and jetsam.  Fog rather than clarity. A bunch of noise.

How Jumo handles this will determine, it seems to me, whether Jumo succeeds in the long run or not.

Hat tip to @stevebridger for sharing @robreich’s wonderfully insightful post about Jumo.